Something borrowed

by Sabrina Maddeaux | Last Updated 1 year ago

Left: Clara Pasieka (Maps To The Stars) wears a Zarucci gown. Right: Pasieka wears a top and skirt by Andrew Majtenyi. Photo By: Ryan Emberley. Make up: Carmen Rachel using MAKE UP FOR EVER.

“I feel bad for actors,” sighed a good friend as we watched some Hollywood awards show. “Having to buy all these designer dresses – imagine, a different one for every occasion!”

I almost choked on whatever cheese-laden snack item I was shoving down my throat. It never occurred to me that people actually think starlets pay for the designer fashions they so dutifully don for red carpets and parties.

Let’s clear this up right now: those dresses are on loan. For free – in exchange for the publicity that comes with being photographed and having “big-name star wears house of Hoity-Toity” printed in blogs and publications around the world.

Left: A floral gown by Masha Apparel. Middle: A Lucian Matis dress. Right: Another Zarucci dress gets tried on for size. Photo By: Ryan Emberley. Make up: Carmen Rachel using MAKE UP FOR EVER.

For many designers, having their clothes worn by a star is more important than receiving good runway reviews. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and, in the world of celebrity dressing, that’s truer than ever.

“Customers don’t care any more about reviews; they care what picture Rihanna just Instagrammed while she’s naked in bed,” confirmed Tom Ford in a interview earlier this year.

Enter Stylist Box, the go-to local showroom for designers looking to get their wares on celeb bodies and in magazine editorials, founded by fashion industry veterans Gail McInnes and Christian Dare. Their slick Dundas West showroom plays host to some of Canada’s best labels, including Lucian Matis, Andrew Majtenyi, Hilary MacMillan and Mäsha Apparel.

Photo By: Ryan Emberley. Make up: Carmen Rachel using MAKE UP FOR EVER.

“The concept is to help Canadian designers who can’t afford their own press showrooms or PR retainers every month. We want to help foster Canadian designers by getting them space in editorials and on the red carpet” says Dare.

Mäsha is a perfect example of what Stylist Box can do for a brand. It often takes homegrown labels years to reach the sort of name recognition Mäsha has achieved in just one. Her first collection launched in time for last year’s TIFF and, thanks to Stylist Box, her designs landed on the likes of Amanda Grace Cooper (All Cheerleaders Die), Lauren Lee Smith (If I Stay) and Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas).

Photo By: Ryan Emberley

Stylists, talent managers and fashion editors appreciate McInnes and Dare’s solid track record and professionalism, two things that can’t be taken for granted in an industry where B should stand for business sense, but more often stands for batshit crazy.

Designers have to trust Stylist Box to loan their precious samples to the right people. Potential borrowers have to trust that the service understands their needs and is organized enough to come through on last-minute or special requests.

The duo has outfitted some of Canada’s biggest names, including Kim Cattrall, Nelly Furtado, Sarah Gadon, Fefe Dobson and the reigning queen of fashion herself, Jeanne Beker.

And, yes, being seen on the rich and famous really does translate into sales.

Stylist Box’s Gail McInnes (left) consults with Pasieka. Photo By: Ryan Emberley. Make up: Carmen Rachel using MAKE UP FOR EVER.

“You can mention those celeb names in your bio, your media kit, your buyers’ kit,” explains McInnes. “It’s essentially all about the customer: if they see that Kim Cattrall or Rachel McAdams has worn something, it gives that label familiarity. It’s almost like an endorsement.”

“You’d be surprised how much buyers actually pay attention to the red carpets,” adds Dare, an important point in a country whose major fashion weeks are criticized for being at odds with buyers’ schedules.

I stop by Stylist Box on a day when Canadian actor Clara Pasieka, who appears in the much-anticipated David Cronenberg film Maps To The Stars (see review, page 17), drops in to try on dresses for various TIFF events.

Photo By: Ryan Emberley

McInnes leads her around the showroom, stopping at each rack to tell her a little bit about the designers and provide some suggestions. She then steps back and lets Pasieka pull whatever catches her eye.

Multiple dresses are tried on. There’s a stunning backless wonder from Matis, an edgy architectural offering from Majtenyi and a floral gown by Mäsha that, according to Pasieka, “feels a bit like a swimsuit to wear… in a good way.”

Photo By: Ryan Emberley. Make up: Carmen Rachel using MAKE UP FOR EVER.

In the end, Matis is the winner of this round, and McInnes offers that he may be able to tailor the dress to Pasieka’s exact measurements.

The tailoring of a garment that already fits pretty well is a detail others might overlook. But Mcinnes and Dare understand that when a dress has the potential to be seen by millions, you can’t afford to sweep anything under the red carpet.

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